Report Your Miracles(excerpted from the revised and expanded edition of
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia)
In our quest to insinuate pronoia into dinner table discussions taking place all over the world, we bring the following pieces of evidence to your attention.
The bible of the mental health community is a 943-page textbook called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, or DSM-IV. Published by the American Psychiatric Association, it's a standardized catalog of psychological disorders that therapists use to evaluate and treat their patients.
Surprise! This ultimate word on the state of the human psyche describes countless pathological states, but there's not a single entry referring to good mental health.
You might imagine that shrinks would be mildly interested not only in fixing what's wrong with their patients but also in helping them cultivate what feels good. But how can that happen if the feel-good states aren't even recognized as important enough to name?
David G. Myers and Ed Diener authored an article called "The Science of Happiness," which appeared in the September/October 1997 issue of The Futurist.
"What causes happiness?" they inquired. "This question not only went largely unanswered during psychology's first century, it went largely unasked." They note that from 1967 to 1995, essays on negative emotions far outnumbered those on positive emotions in the psychological literature. The ratio was 21:1.
Even those supreme perpetrators of pop nihilism, The New York Times and The Washington Post, have a better ratio than the psychological literature. They average only 12 negative stories to every one that might be construed to be non-negative. Most other daily newspapers maintain a similar proportion.
Many of their non-negative stories, however, cover success in sports and entertainment. For example: The Atlanta Braves won their eighth straight game; the new book by Malcolm Gladwell is pretty decent. Remove these feel-good stories from the equation, and the media's Curse Quotient rises closer to that of the psychological literature.
In his book Omens of Millennium, Harold Bloom hints at the "reductive fallacy" that serves as a shibboleth for intellectuals. Picture yourself, he says, in conversation with a bright, literate acquaintance who asks you about someone you know well: "Tell me what he or she is really like." You reflect a moment and give a brief description of your impressions, but your acquaintance isn't satisfied: "No, I mean really like." And now you grasp the actual question: "What is the very worst thing you can say about him or her that is true?"
Thousands of amazing, inexplicable, wondrous, and even supernatural events occur every day. And yet most are unreported by the media. The few that are cited are ridiculed.
Why? Here's one possible reason: The people most likely to believe in miracles are superstitious, uneducated, and prone to having a blind, literalist faith in their religions' myths. Those who are least likely to believe in miracles are skilled at analytical thought, well educated, and yet prone to having a blind, literalist faith in the ideology of materialism, which dogmatically asserts that the universe consists entirely of things that can be perceived by the five human senses or detected by instruments that scientists have thus far invented.
The media is largely composed of people from the second group. It's virtually impossible for them to admit to the possibility of miracles, let alone experience them. If anyone from this group manages to escape peer pressure and cultivate a receptivity to miracles, it's because they have successfully fought against being demoralized by the unsophisticated way miracles are framed by the first group.
At the Beauty and Truth Lab we're immune to the double-barreled ignorance. When we behold astonishing synchronicities and numinous breakthroughs that seem to violate natural law, we're willing to consider the possibility that our understanding of natural law is too narrow. And yet we also refrain from lapsing into irrational gullibility; we actively seek mundane explanations for apparent miracles.
Wes Nisker wrote a book called If You Don't Like the News ... Go Out and Make Some of Your Own.
If you have encountered examples of the following evidence, tell us about it. Send your testimony to the Beauty and Truth Lab at [email protected] You might want to include the following:
1. bliss that flows toward you because you've made a habit of expecting it and cultivating it;
2. good news that's really interesting; fascinating stories that provide an antidote to the media's obsession with hardship, anguish, deterioration, and death;
3. states of emotional wealth and psychological health: raw material for the manual that will be the corrective for the DSM-IV; the missing half of the story;
4. mirabilia: mysterious revelations, rejuvenating prodigies, ineffable breakthroughs, beguiling ephemera, sudden deliverance from boring evils;
5. plain old everyday miracles;
6. the good news you've gone out and created.
(This message is excerpted from the revised and expanded edition of Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia)
© 1995-2013 -- Rob Brezsny. All rights reserved